Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception yesterday. While he touched on a wide variety of topics, two in particular caught my attention.
First, in talking about the laity and the bishops' need to provide them with encouragement, leadership and direction, the Pope said,
The importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded.
Later on, His Holiness added,
Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and catechesis in parishes and schools, if the new evangelization is to bear fruit for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.
There is an awful lot of meat in these few words, especially for those of us in DOR. The abysmal catechesis that has been far too common here for far too long has produced a diocese full of Catholics who are clueless as to even the rudiments of their faith. "God loves you, so live in His Love" is a wonderful exhortation, but it becomes a vapid platitude unless it is accompanied with "If you love me, keep my commandments," as well as an exposition of just what those commandments are and why they are important.
With regard to His Holiness' reference to the need to maintain and expand Catholic schools, one can only hope that our good bishop wasn't nodding off there.
The second very interesting topic mentioned by the Pope came up during the question and answer period following the address. The Holy Father was asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population. He began his reply with these words:
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard.
DOR's vocations rate is essentially zero. The only logical conclusion is that we are one very sick local Church.
Once again, I sure hope our bishop was paying attention.